We had seen the village stretched out under the mountains, the sun playing on its rooftops. Idyllic, you might think to say.
So, we decided to take a detour from the tourist “must sees” in the Abruzzo’s Gran Sasso to visit this little stretched-out village in the Province of L’Aquila. Tired from the zig-zag drive, we parked the car in the shade of the little trees that lined the town square, across from an old man taking in the sun from his doorway.
“Not many come anymore.” he said as we passed, his Italian words heavily influenced by the local dialect. I stopped to look at him; our eyes met. I nodded but I said nothing.
Eventually we found a sign pointed to the centro storico and headed through the gate. Eeriness was everywhere. Each arch to the center was propped by what we’d come to see everywhere in the province, wooden skeletons designed to keep it all from falling down manufactured by the Vigili del Fuoco. VVF. The fire watchers. “VVF Roma”, “VVF Bergamo”. They came from all over to prop up the villages of the Abruzzo.
From the earthquake. Four years past.
Rocks from house walls studded the little walkways. Stairs led nowhere. There was an eerie silence. It sent shivers up your spine. We were glad when we had a chance to exit the dead city.
“Oh, you can’t go there.” he said, staring into my eyes for a few seconds. “Oh, then you’ve seen it,” he said, realizing we’d breached the forbidden boundary.
“What a terrible thing. Four years! Still a ghost town!”
He shakes his head, then turns the conversation to Boston, the recent marathon bombing. “Crazy, bombing like that! They found a man! Crazy doing things like that!”
It was as if he was looking for a way to neutralize the event by sharing another. It was a crazy thing the earth was doing. It was a crazy thing we were doing to the earth; to each other.
There was nothing more to say.
This is the view that brought us to Castelvecchio Calvisio. Scenes from “The American” were set there. The historic center is almost oval, like a teaspoon. There is no one there now.